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Home : Community : Customer Gallery : 'Hugs-to-go' Ministry a Blessing to Stitchers, Recipients

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'Hugs-to-go' Ministry a Blessing to Stitchers, Recipients

‘Hugs-to-go’ Ministry a Blessing to Stitchers, Recipients

By Marie Salen

While caring for my brother following a very complicated surgery, I became very interested in prayer shawl ministries. Over a three-month period at his bedside and during “off” times in my hotel room, I turned to my laptop to do research on prayer shawl and waiting-room ministries. On a quick foray into the real world, I purchased a copy of the Leisure Arts book, The Prayer Shawl Ministry Reaching Those in Need. I grabbed a ton of yarn for a huge variety of shawls and a selection of crochet hooks.

During those three months in Minneapolis, I completed some 30-plus shawls in a variety of yarns, styles, patterns and designs. At the same time, I asked my husband to approach our church located in Thousand Oaks, California, about starting a prayer shawl ministry. He spoke with the Lay Ministry director, who, interestingly, was actually working on starting a prayer shawl ministry there. Isn’t it amazing how some things are just meant to happen! They agreed to have me get in touch when I returned from Minnesota.

I returned to California at the end of November – my brother having been released to a rehabilitation facility and then home just before the Thanksgiving holiday, a wonderful gift for our entire family! Through a series of announcements in the church bulletin, about two dozen people had already volunteered to be part of the prayer shawl ministry. Some wanted to do it in their homes or on the road as they traveled. Others sought a sense of community and were interested in starting a group.

I volunteered my home and we had our first meetings in early December. In spite of a very busy holiday season, we had a small group of interested stitchers who showed up and contacted us via e-mail. We agreed to a very open group where we could work independently and use meetings for help and encouragement, pattern sharing and discussion.

Our mission is as open as we can make it. Stitchers provide their own yarn and decide on their own colors, combinations and stitches. Often, shawls are created for specific individuals and we endeavor to make them not only in their favorite colors, but also to address their physical needs (no fringe for those in wheelchairs, for example). We also make shawls to hold in reserve so the pastors and caregivers can have access to them to bless those in sudden need.

In six months, our group of stitchers - - which has grown to about 32 - - has been able to provide 26 shawls and about 20 scarves. A written blessing goes along with each one. Some prayer shawls have accompanied recipients to new assisted living or care facilities; others have been a special source of comfort during chemotherapy sessions; and still others have been a last gift for those who were dying. In each case, the response has been wonderful and rewarding.

We’ve also found a special use for our prayer shawls at Ascension Lutheran Church. We introduced a “Blue Christmas” service on Friday, December 21, 2007, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. With less than a week’s time to prepare, “mini shawls” were knit for the two Blue Christmas services and offered to those who were feeling lost and alone.

We knit the scarves 3-up on size 10 ½ knitting needles using a variety of yarns double strand when necessary across 12 stitches. Each scarf measured 60 inches and was trimmed with 3-inch fringe. What a speedy solution, what a lovely gift and what a lasting memory to help those in need through a difficult and challenging time.

Our group termed these scarves “hugs to go”. The response to the program was excellent – there were enough to go around and we had caregivers asking to take an extra for a friend who was unable to attend. Who could ask for anything more?

And we’re not finished yet. Certainly there is always the need for these beautiful prayer shawls to be comforting reminders to those who are ill or hurting that prayers have been sent up on their behalf. However, we’ve identified another outlet for our prayer shawls. We will soon be giving special “hugs to go” to those in our GriefShare group, which ministers to people grieving the death of a loved one.

Hugs and stitches!

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